CANSO, the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation, is cautiously optimistic that Africa is experiencing a greater willingness among states and industry partners to make real progress on the challenges facing aviation and air traffic management (ATM). Through its strategic framework to transform ATM performance, Vision 2020, CANSO is already taking steps in Africa to cater for the expected growth in air traffic; to cooperate with States and industry partners in achieving seamless and harmonised airspace; and to improve safety.

Speaking at the third CANSO Africa Conference in Durban, hosted by Air Traffic & Navigation Services (ATNS), CANSO director-general, Jeff Poole, said, "The winds of change are beginning to have an impact on the political, institutional and infrastructure barriers to seamless and harmonised airspace across Africa.

Governments across the continent are now recognising the significant economic and social benefits of air transport. The recent decision by transport ministers to back the African Union proposal to set up a single African air transport market by 2017 is a sign of this shift. The long-awaited implementation of the Yamoussoukro Declaration would promote the sustainability of the industry through seamless and harmonised airspace, greater efficiencies and reduced costs. I can only hope that this time states will actually follow through with their commitments."

Aviation provides fast, safe and efficient connectivity across the continent and contributes to significant economic and social benefits and access to markets. Air traffic management plays a critical role in building this connectivity by ensuring the smooth and safe flow of traffic. In 2014, air navigation service providers (ANSP) in Africa handled close to one million flights across the continent and air travel in Africa is expected to grow at over five percent per annum. Poole added, "Our challenge is how ATM will manage this growth, safely, efficiently and cost-effectively.

"While there are some very real safety, capacity, operational, technical, infrastructure and financial challenges, our industry is taking the important steps through CANSO’s strategic plan for the air traffic management industry, Vision 2020. At the heart of Vision 2020 is our goal of seamless and harmonised airspace, under which planes will be able to navigate seamlessly across the whole region, across national borders and FIRs, selecting the most efficient routes. Implementation of the Yamoussoukro Declaration would act as a catalyst for driving these necessary changes across Africa."

Implementation of the ICAO Aviation System Block Upgrades (ASBU) is an important step towards harmonisation. ASBUs offer the opportunity to transform ATM performance in Africa and they help address the lack of infrastructure and air navigation services in remote areas. In line with the ASBU block 0 initiatives, CANSO identified and agreed five priorities: performance-based navigation (PBN); continuous descent operations (CDO); continuous climb operations (CCO); implementation of safety management systems; and improving runway safety. CANSO is providing training and best practice guidance to States and ANSPs in implementing the ASBUs in Africa.

Safety, the industry’s and CANSO’s number one priority continues to be a challenge for Africa. CANSO and its members are working with ICAO and other stakeholders to develop a regional framework of cooperation and peer support on ATM safety to assess safety maturity and performance and to identify and implement best practices that can be shared to improve air navigation performance. This work builds on the agreed global standards in the CANSO Standard of Excellence in Safety Management Systems with its complementary CANSO SMS Implementation Guide and the CANSO Safety Maturity Survey. In addition, CANSO is investigating the establishment of a global CANSO safety standard programme as an impartial, standardised means of assuring and demonstrating air navigation service provider (ANSP) safety management capabilities.

Poole concluded, "I am cautiously optimistic that we are seeing a greater willingness across Africa, across states and across our industry partners to make real progress on the challenges facing aviation and ATM in Africa. CANSO has laid the groundwork and built the foundations so that ANSPs are well placed to meet these challenges: to cater for the expected growth in air traffic; to cooperate in achieving seamless and harmonised airspace; and, most importantly, to improve safety."